Along with an aggressive advertising campaign, Pontiac also put Judges in the hands of the automotive press. Popular Hot Rodding did the most extensive coverage, starting with a stock Judge in our April '69 issue. Pontiac arranged for editor, Lee Kelley, to work with Royal Pontiac, the division's back door high-performance dealer. The Judge PHR worked with was a bizarre setup, equipped with the stock Ram Air III, Muncie M13 three-speed gearbox, 3.55 rear gears, power steering, and power brakes. Royal had done their usual massaging prior to the trip to the dragstrip, and it showed-the Judge managed to turn a 14.05/100.6 mph on street tires. A set of Goodyear slicks resulted in a best of 13.95/99.5 mph (Kelly noted that the slicks were too tall for the gearing, resulting in the lower-mph figure). Finally, bolting on a set of Doug's headers, installing an advance curve kit, and re-jetting the Q-Jet scored 13.65/101.1 mph.
The Judge returned two months later, now called "Project Judge," with an aggressive plan to pull the Judge's time down in the 12s, but remain totally streetable. The drivetrain was gutted, replaced with a 3.90 gear set and four-speed Muncie. The engine was given the Royal Bobcat treatment, which tuned the distributor, shaved the head gaskets to raise compression, modified the valvetrain, and re-jetted the carburetor. A heavier-duty clutch was installed, and the Judge responded with a 13.20/108 mph. A set of super sticky slicks knocked it down to 12.86/109.89.
PHR wasn't done with Project Judge. In the August '69 issue, they worked on tuning the Judge in search of the perfect launch. A set of airbags were installed in the rear coil springs, along with a Hurst Line-Loc and a Carter electric fuel pump. The 3.90s were trashed in favor of a set of 4.33 gears, and taller slicks were installed. The Judge responded with a 12.62/110.70 mph.
There was really only one more change to make to Project Judge, and that occurred in the December '69 issue. Kelley went for the ultimate Pontiac street engine, the Ram Air IV. Royal built up a Ram IV for Project Judge that produced way in excess of the advertised 370 hp. The heads were cleaned up, ported, and polished, and careful attention was paid to the combustion chambers. The engine went into Project Judge with a new set of headers, a flex fan, and a King Kong clutch. This was about as good as it got for a GTO, and Project Judge, which had started out as a humble, 14-second car, pounded the quarter with a 12.25/113.92 with open pipes and slicks. PHR's Project Judge was exactly the kind of press exposure Pontiac wanted to promote the Judge as a strong runner in the stock classes.
Pontiac also put the Judge into the hands of their premiere drag racer, Arnie Beswick. Beswick had been loyal to Pontiac since the late-'50s, and was one of the few who campaigned a series of all-Pontiac S/S and FX racers through the mid-to-late-'60s. Beswick actually campaigned three Judges in 1969; one to run in Pro Stock, a second called the Super Judge (see sidebar), and a D/Stock version, featured here.
Thanks to Beswick's extensive contacts inside Pontiac, his D/Stocker came from the assembly plant a little lighter and a whole long stronger than a run-of-the-mill Ram Air IV Judge. The Pontiac Tool Room assembled a Ram Air IV for Beswick with "select" parts, carefully set up and dyno'd to ensure it was putting out way over the advertised 370 hp. The specially built body was devoid of body sealer or insulation, which made for one hell of a noisy ride, but saved precious pounds. Also left off were power steering, power brakes, and radio. Drum brakes were specified since they provided less rolling drag.
The ET was Pontiac's ill-fated...
The ET was Pontiac's ill-fated attempt to build an econo GTO to compete against the budget-priced Road Runner. General Manager John DeLorean turned it down, and the ET eventually morphed into The Judge. (Paul Zazarine collection)
Throughout 1969, Popular Hot...
Throughout 1969, Popular Hot Rodding magazine raced and modified a '69 GTO, starting out with a factory Ram Air III engine, then progressing with simple mods and tuning, bolt-ons, then eventually a breathed-on Ram Air IV powerplant tweaked by Royal Pontiac.